Tag Archives: Parenting

Math Word Problems (Or Forcing a Square Peg in a Round Hole)

My nine year-old has more homework than usual this week. That’s OK. Since I homeschooled my oldest sons, I know all too well how to teach a third grader, but every once in a while the explanation seems to elude me.  His weakest (and therefore most detested) subject is math, so I wasn’t surprised that he balked when we began the two pages of word problems. The conversation that ensued while we worked through the problems was actually quite comical.

Me (reading from the assignment): Write and solve a word problem in which you must find an unknown partner.

Aidan (a little confused): You mean like I have to do in gym?

Me (containing my smile): No, Honey. This is different. The teacher is asking you to create a word problem similar to the nine that we just worked through. Finding an unknown partner means you’re only given a portion of the information and you need to use math to find out the portion that you weren’t given.

Aidan: Does it need to be a subtraction problem?

[He sees no useful reason he should ever have to do subtraction, especially if it involves borrowing from the *neighbor*.  Wait until he opens his first checking account!]

Me: Let’s assume the answer is YES since the previous nine problems all involved subtraction.

Aidan (enthusiastically):  I know! There were 15 kids in costumes. Six kids wore ghost costumes.

Me (excitedly thinking he’d caught on quickly): Good, Aidan! I’ll write that part down for you. Now you need to end the word problem by asking a question. What would your question be?

Aidan (very confidently): The question part is really easy, Mom!  How many kids wore werewolf costumes?

Me (mental face palm): Ummm.  No. How could I answer that, Aidan, since there are still nine kids that I don’t know about?

Aidan: Easy. I could tell you.

Me (growing more confused than HIM!): Tell me what, Aidan?

Aidan: I could tell you that eight of the kids wore werewolf costumes!

Me: But eight werewolves plus six ghosts only equals 14 kids. I thought there were 15 kids in costumes.

Aidan (more than ready to make his word problem work):  OK. So let’s say that the other kid dressed as Darth Maul.

[sigh]

It’s fun to hear how Aidan processes things. He’s not a neuro-typical third grader since he navigates life with high-functioning Autism, but he is very academically adept. That said, our math lesson gave me reason to pause tonight to explain to him that somewhere in our conversation, he went off-course. It wasn’t about werewolves at all when we began the word problem, but once he introduced werewolves into the picture, he was focused on  making it work.

How often do we find ourselves doing the very same thing, whether it be with a school assignment, a work situation, or a life circumstance? After using a half page of paper on one algebra problem, it becomes obvious that the direction in which we are headed is not right. But who wants to rework that entire problem? It seems more time-efficient to chalk it up to a great, albeit failed, attempt and be thankful it was only worth five points while moving on to the following problem. At work, we find that the implementation of  a new product did not provide the company with the long-term benefits we anticipated. Rather than giving voice to this fact, we force the new product to fit into the business while we listen to our peers grumble under their breath. In life we find ourselves accumulating debt. As the interest becomes higher than the principle, we begin to realize that our credit card debt is too high, but it’s so much easier to open a new credit card and start with a zero balance than to reign in our spending habits and pay off the balance on the first card.

As we worked through Aidan’s math word problem that evening, we had to return to the base problem to ascertain how to best address it. Avoiding the problem, or simply adding new factors, was not working – no matter how hard he tried forcing that square peg into the round hole!

What are the square pegs in your life? Are you working through issues where you’ve introduced too many factors? Or are you simply ignoring that the issue exists at all? Unfortunately, the issues that are not dealt with remain, needing correction and seeking closure. Left open and uncorrected, they haunt us unceasingly.  Face the issues in your life; correct them; bring closure. It will feel fa-BOO-lous!

Philippians 3:13-15
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

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It CAN Always Get Worse!

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How was your week? Mine felt unbearably long and there were many times I was sure Friday evening would never arrive – or if it did, I would somehow miss it amid the chaos of life. The proverbial nail was driven into the casket this evening as my six year old spilled his milk on the peanuts I had just spent two hours shelling while our four month old puppy pounced excitedly between his rawhide bone and the sweet, dripping kitchen table unsure which way to run in the 1.5 square feet of space available. Admittedly, bedtime could not come soon enough – if not for the young ones, for me.

OK. It can always get worse. When I’m tempted to feel tapped, I try to remind myself of that fact. For example, Rasputin, the iconic Russian religious advisor to the Romanov family, definitely dealt with greater grievances. Hated by many in a country where he held significant influence and power (not an unusual feat in and of itself), he experienced trials and tribulations beyond what I’d wish on my worst enemy. Rasputin was stabbed, poisoned, shot three times, clubbed, and drowned – and with the exception of the stabbing, it all happened in one evening!

I can’t top that. More importantly I don’t even want to try! Incomplete homework assignments, piles of laundry, sticky floors, dinner dishes, spilled milk, and puppy poo all plague my week, but I can tackle those consistent challenges that attempt to derail my days. And much like Rasputin, I don’t go down without a good fight. But his life, and subsequent death, serve as a stark reminder that it can always get worse!

So how did you say your week went?

I’m Normal. What Are You?

After a full day of playing with Legos, Matchbox Cars, Wii, and various outdoor toys, the time had come for Owen’s best friend, Alex, to go home. As we  entered the van for the fourteen mile drive, Alex chose to sit in the far reaches, the very back seat – because providing additional challenges in a conversation can make it extra interesting, right? As I chatted with Alex over the expanse of empty seats, our conversations flowed easily, especially considering Alex is only five years old and doesn’t really know me very well. We were, however, trying our best to listen to each other over the noise of both the engine and the road.

When Alex told me he was learning Spanish, my curiosity was piqued.  See, Alex is Asian – but beyond knowing THAT, I have no idea what Alex’s heritage is, so the following conversation ensued:

Me (trying to peer into the rear view mirror to occasionally establish eye contact):  That’s really cool that you’re learning Spanish, Alex.  What is your ancestry?

Alex (pausing, not quite sure of the meaning of the word):  Ummmm ….. I don’t know.

Me (trying to help him out with both an explanation and a prompt): Ancestry means lineage or where your parents and grandparents came from. Are you Korean?

Alex (quickly): No.

Me: Are you Chinese?

Alex: No.

Me: Are you Vietnamese?

Alex: No.

Me (now floundering as I was running out of options): Japanese?

Alex: No.

[Since Alex was so sure these options were not part of his ancestry, it struck me that Alex might KNOW his ancestry and I need only quit prompting him. So I continued my line of questions in a new manner:]

Me: If none of those are part of your lineage, then what ARE you, Alex?

[Alex’s reply was quick as a wink and sure as a boy could be, causing me to really hear his answer.]

Alex (simply):  I’m normal.

Touche, Alex.

Pause for consideration, Reader. How do you see YOURself? It occurs to me that we all too often view our differences in a manner that set us apart from others, in both a positive and negative manner. If you’re seated across from a potential employer in a job interview, that may be a necessity to secure employment.  More often, however, we need to look for commonalities that enable us to be ONE with each other.  At the tender age of five, Alex seemed to understand that commonalities make for both a confident person and a more peaceful community. Additionally, it is what Christ calls us to do.

1 Cor 12: 24-26:  But God has so composed the body … 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Are you normal, Reader? It IS a more excellent way!

Thinking Outside the (Crayon) Box

Owen, my sweet-as-pie six year-old, loves to be creative so it never surprisesme to find him sitting on the floor surrounded by crayons and paper, sometimes adding scissors and glue to the mix. Recently he invited me to join him as he conceptualized his next great feat of artistic expression. Quite often I look for an out, deferring him to one of his older brothers as a potentially better partner in craft. On this particular day, however, I decided to color with him, elbow to elbow.

Owen: Mommy, want to color with me?

Me: Sure, Honey. Could you bring the paper and crayons to the table please?

[He arrived at the table with the paper and immediately left the room in search of the crayons. It took him longer than usual to return and I will admit, I was growing a bit impatient as I sat there pondering what to make for dinner, thinking about the homework I needed to tackle with his brother, and feeling somewhat dismayed at the depth of debris stuck to my sock from the unswept kitchen floor. After quite some time Owen returned to the table with the crayons and a proclamation.]

Owen: Here are the crayons, Mommy! I broke them all in half so we wouldn’t have to fight over them!

(Sigh. We each took our half-set and began to color, him a bit more contently than me.)

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The first thought to cross my mind as we bumped elbows and noses while we colored was that I would probably only fight to the death over the yellow and pink crayons, at least one color of which he would likely have no interest in using anyway!  The second thought to cross my mind was that we would soon be buying a new box of crayons. Fortunately this was just a small set that needed replacing.

Looking at Owen’s actions in hindsight, a few thoughts pop out beyond the fact that I happen to be bugged by the chaos created by broken crayons. Owen thinks much differently than I do. Given that there is a vast age difference, that doesn’t entirely shock me – but I also see a difference in how he thinks in comparison to how I thought at his age. Growing up in a small town in a one-income household, possessions were both few and treasured. To break something of value intentionally would have been far beyond my comprehension of sanity and respect for personal property!

In that regard, many children today show a lack of appreciation for the items they own. Elaborate gifts for birthdays and Christmas have become the new normal, the expectation rather than the exceptional blessing they should be. Because they happen to be part of the modern day culture, for example, many teens feel that iPhones, game consoles, and cars are inherent to who they are, essential for their happiness, and indispensable in their daily activities. As a result, the value of the expensive toys, iPhones, and game consoles is lost, as broken items are typically tossed rather than repaired. Even those broken crayons have value though. They just await an art project of new proportion and different dimension.

On the other hand, I absolutely applaud my six year-old for his ability to both anticipate a problem and create a solution before coming to the table! Owen saw his limited resources and realized immediately that product distribution might pose a challenge. That showed ingenuity beyond the capability of many adults who are no longer able to think outside the crayon box.

I held my tongue that day deciding instead to instill in his being a sense of harmony as we colored shades of scarlet and tints of teal, creating a masterpiece previously unparalleled in his short history.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/weekly-writing-challenge-a-splash-of-color/

Everybody Shut Up …. Please!

ImageUndoubtedly there’s nothing like a conversation with a young one to completely change your outlook on something, whether of substance or not!  I am blessed daily with comical conversations with my nearly-nine year-old, Aidan, and my soon-to-be-six year-old (tomorrow!), Owen. Today, however, we added to that mix with Owen’s best friend, Alex, as we drove him to our house for a play date. As usual, the backseat conversations did not disappoint.  Need to brighten your day?  Read on!

Alex (to me):  What is your name again?

Me (pretty relaxed with kiddos): You can call me Amy.

Alex: Amy, my family goes out for lunch after church every Sunday.

Me (sensing a HUGE hint in that statement): Oh! Wow! We don’t do that, Alex.

Alex (not skipping a beat):  You could START today!!

Aidan (changing the subject while proudly announcing):  Guess what, Alex? I’m half Hispanic!

[I’m not entirely sure where this came from since his roots hail largely from Germany, Poland, Norway, and Sweden!]

Alex (not to be outdone by Aidan):  Oh yeah? Well I have a friend that is half crazy APE!

[OK. I’m not even going to TRY to top that one!]

Since they were now on a descent-oriented conversation, this followed …

Alex:  Konnichiwa, Owen!

Owen (scratching his cute little head): Wha …. ?

Alex (taking on an air of higher education): It means “shut up”.

Me (trying desperately not to laugh): Ummm …. I don’t think that’s right, Alex. I’m pretty certain that it means “hello” or “good afternoon”.

[Suddenly raucous laughter erupts in the back seat as they all ignore me and start yelling out this newly discovered *command*, Konnichiwa! After a seemingly endless stretch of time, Alex declared that the decibel levels were decidedly deafening!]

Alex (commanding): Everybody … Konnichiwa!!  Please.

[Everybody shut up, please?  Well, at least he was polite about what he THOUGHT he was saying.]

Alex and Owen both attend Kindergarten in the same school district but are in different schools. They share the same crazy Kindergarten schedule …. All-day every other day and alternating Fridays. Believe me, there are days that I’M not sure if he should be attending or not!  Alex, much like our own family, comes from a home where some of the kids have been or are currently being home educated. When the conversation in the car came into more subdued volumes, he began to share more with us.

Alex:  Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I’ll be going to SCHOOL …. REAL school, NOT home school.

[HA!  My 17 year-old, sitting in the front passenger seat, shot me a look from the corner of his eye with a slight smile gracing his face. OK, I’m going to let that one go. After all, it came from a five year-old, right?]

The conversation turned to age when Owen announced that he’d be celebrating his birthday in one day. This often provides for good humor anytime an early elementary child and someone over the ripe age of 20 are involved. Today’s comical conversation was not an exception!

Owen (happily): I’m having a birthday tomorrow, Alex! I’ll be SIX!

Alex (about 5″ taller than Owen): Wow! Tomorrow I will still be FIVE and I think I’ll still be BIGGER than you, Owen!  (continuing on)  My brother is SEVEN already!!

Me: Wow! That’s really OLD!

Aidan (to no one in particular): Well, I’m going to be NINE in a MONTH!

Me (to Alex): And how old is your sister, Hannah, Alex? Is she 12?

Alex (with a slight sound of exasperation in his young voice): No! She’s a TEENAGER!  Isaac, are YOU a teenager yet?

[Evidently all ages from 13-19 are lumped together in one enormously scary category?]

Aidan (nearly nine but still trying to gain ground with Alex): I’m actually 19. I’m just small.

Alex (surprised): Wow! I didn’t know that!

Me (trying to encourage Aidan to come clean with the truth): You’re not 19, Aidan. Please don’t lie.

Aidan (calculatingly):  I’m NOT lying …. I’m tricking.

[Uh huh]

These entertaining exchanges brought us almost all the way home, covering matters at a five year-old level concerning tradition, descent, age, and language! Alas, the entertainment did not stop upon reaching our abode, however. After lunch, Alex was exploring a cheap, and thus broken, airsoft pistol when Isaac told him he could take it home.

Alex (to Isaac, sweetly):  I wish I had a brother like you at home.

[Isaac was momentarily thinking that Alex was a really great kid when Alex interrupted that stream of consciousness with the continuation of his declaration.]

Alex: Because then he would give me all his stuff.

Kids’ voiced-thoughts and conversations can be so awesome. Quite often, we are moving too quickly to actually hear them, however. As busy adults, we just need to slow down to catch the comedy, allowing them to both entertain us with their exchanges and imbue us with their innocence.  Everybody, shut up … please.

Owen

Owen

“Can I have a cookie?” he asks with a gleaming ice-cream grin!

[I’m guessing he doesn’t need more sugar!]

If For Only a Moment ….

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I was driving to church to meet with a group of ladies for our study on significance as the sun was slowly setting, when suddenly and swiftly, it happened. The golden rays shone through the auburn leaves of the enormous Maple tree in front of a small, unpretentious white house in the middle of town, creating a beautifully appointed canopy overhead and an array of warmly scattered colors on the grass beneath. And if only for a moment, I was there – almost magically transported back to the innocent days of my childhood growing up in a neighborhood surrounded by the laughter of children and the innocence rooted in those young lives, just as the Maple tree was rooted to that very ground.

That fleeting passage back was not of a specific day, memory, or event. It was more generalized than that. Without hesitation though, I can state that it was a reflection of a time prior to my ninth year, a time when things were simpler, when I understood as much as I needed to, and life was not left with gaping holes, unanswered for the sake of protection. That momentary trek back in time … it brought me to a moment filled with perfect peace, purity, and an assumed protection of all things big and bad. After all, that’s why every little girl has a daddy, right?

The Fall of 1973 brought most of those days to a halt for me, a chapter in a book closed well before the ending. It called into question the very basis of my known peace, my perceived world of purity, and the existence of any possible protection that I imagined would always be there.

On October 31 of that year, my sweet, young, loving friend, Lisa, dressed as a hobo and went out into her neighborhood, armed only with a smile and a candy bag, never to return home again. I wasn’t with her that fateful night, but I can almost see her – still. Lisa had a charming smile that drew you in in an instant. She had an accepting manner that allowed for a great circle of friends, and at that very young age, she had a beautiful heart of gold, totally sold out for her Lord.

I remember November 1, 1973 as though it happened yesterday. It was a crisp, cool day. The sky was a bright azure canvas with very few clouds interrupting the flow of sunshine overhead. “Pray for Lisa. They can’t find her,” was the urgent plea that came from our family friends as I stood inside at the white counter of the bakery they owned.  “What? What do you mean they can’t find her?” I asked as I furrowed my brow. Life was much simpler in those days. At just nine years old myself, it was all I knew to ask. And I can guarantee that I didn’t understand the implications of that plea for prayer. “She went trick-or-treating last night and never returned home,” came the grave reply. Confusion would be an understatement. I could see it in their faces and sense it in the room. There were so many words left unspoken but the worry was thick.

I prayed … and prayed  . . .  and prayed. There were no answers that day, nor the following day. I honestly can’t remember the number of days that passed as we waited for some news. Since Lisa didn’t live in the same town, we waited anxiously for the ring of the phone … Days ambled by as hours grew longer and minutes more intense.  It was a time in my life filled with such a pregnant pause that doing anything other than awaiting a resolution was almost unthinkable. Finally the news came. Standing in the same spot in the same bakery, the dissemination of information was sparse and obscure. “They found her.”  “OH! Where?” I asked excitedly. As she knelt before me and looked me in the eye, the answer came softly, gently, cloaking the anger behind the words but not the tears brimming over the edges of her already swollen, red eyes. “They didn’t find her alive.”

Those five simple words rocked the foundation of my life as I knew it. The peace, purity, and protection of my days were all up for grabs. Hundreds of questions stormed through me, leaving me stunned and unsure which, if any, should be given voice. Who found her? Where was she? What do you mean, “not alive”? How can that even be? How can this happen to my FRIEND? I left the bakery that day in a manner previously unknown to me, shoulders slouched forward, tears streaming down my cheeks, confusion consuming my very core.  No one could answer my questions that day, for my protection. They knew in the years that ensued, I would eventually put the pieces of the puzzle together, but it wasn’t time for me to understand – not at nine years old.

To this very day, Halloween is a *holiday* shrouded in bleak memories. With my oldest children, I would bribe them into staying home by purchasing them a bag of their chosen candy and enticing them with a family movie. Together we would hunker down in the dark, ignoring the knocks at our front door, eat popcorn and candy, all while loosing ourselves in the adventure of the home cinema – played out on a television very small by today’s standards.

Now my youngest children are nearly six and nine years old. Nine. The age I was when I learned about my sweet friend; the age SHE was when she breathed her last breath; an age that no one should know about such atrocities, but certainly should never experience them. To my dire disappointment, my youngest boys so badly want to partake in trick or treating. Do I tell them about Lisa? No … they are far too young. I want to protect them … from the knowledge of this crime, yes, but also from bullies on the bus, from fights on the playground, from injury in a fall … from life. After living that impossible lesson at nine years old myself, I know that I am utterly incapable of protecting them in every sense. So I look skyward every day I release them to the bus, every time they go to play at the neighbor’s house, every moment I let go of them, and say to my great big God, “You’re up!”

Lisa never made it home that night. That was my *take* on the subject for so many years. After reconnecting with Lisa’s mom last year, sharing memories, tears, prayers, and long-distance hugs, I came to the realization that Lisa never made it back to her earthly home that night. Looking back with eternal eyes, however, Lisa really DID make it Home that night.

That moment in time that I mentioned earlier? Without a doubt, that was a God-moment. It was a moment of pure peace, serenity, and security. It was God’s reminder to me …. “I’ve got her. She’s OK.”

Below is a link to a newspaper article written over five years ago about my young friend. Reader, if you pray, could you please lift Lisa’s mom up to the Throne Room today?

If you don’t pray, why not try seeking Christ and inviting him into your life? It can only bode well for you … and one day you, too, may meet my wonderful friend, Lisa.